Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Decline of the West Chapter Eight

As usual, my comments will be in brackets. This chapter does discuss some about the arts of literature and drama, so I guess we weren't completely finished with art quite yet.

Soul-Image and Life Feeling:
On the Form of the Soul

What is not the world around us we do not see, but we do divine "its" presence in ourselves and others, and by virtue of "its" physiognomic impressive power it evokes in us the anxiety and the desire to know; and thus arises the meditated or pondered image of a counterworld which is our mode of visualizing that which remains eternally alien to the physical eye.

Every psychology is a counter-physics.

Scientific psychology has, in its inability to discover or even approach the essence of the soul, simply added one more to the symbols that collectively make up the Macrocosm of the culture-man. Like everything else that is no longer becoming but become, it has put a mechanism in place of an organism.

[Ultra-orthodox Judaism is particularly guilty of this - preventing people from even obtaining necessary psychiatric help and instead insisting they "recite psalms" or "study harder" in Talmud, or "pray" more diligently or whatever other completely useless activity the Rav may suggest. Their supposedly perfect "mechanism" completely ignores the organic needs of the human mind/body.]

This imaginary soul-body (let it be called so outright for the first time) is never anything but the exact mirror-image of the form in which the matured culture-man looks on his outer world. In the one as the other, the depth-experience actualizes the extension-world.

This being so, everything that has been said in this work regarding the phenomenon of the high Cultures combines to demand an immensely wider and richer sort of soul-study than anything worked upon so far. For everything that our present day psychologist has to tell us - and here we refer not only to systematic science but also in the wider sense to the physiognomic knowledge of men - relates to the present condition of the Western soul, and not, as hitherto gratuitously assumed, to "the human soul" at large.

[Certainly primitive tribes know nothing of the neurosis and abberant behaviors that plague modern western peoples, for example. No "going postal" among aboriginal austrailians, for example. And indeed, not even 50 years ago kids in rural areas normally had hunting rifles and knives in the trunks of their pick-ups at school with nary a problem. Nor in the nearly 400 years previous to that has there been a single record of any boy taking his musket or rifle into a one-room schoolhouse and blowing all his colonial school-mates away, or mass murdering his prarie school mates during the western expansion. Kids throughout history had access to and used weapons on a regular basis and never "went postal" - only modern kids do that, due to the glorification of violence and the lack of ethical, moral and religious sensibility, among other things.]

The soul-image is never anything but the image of one quite definite soul. In reality, every Culture possesses its own systematic psychology just as it posseses its own style of knowledge of men and experience of life.

Will and Thought in the soul-image correspond to Direction and Extension, History and Nature, Destiny and Causality in the image of the outer world.

To call the Faustian Culture a Will-Culture is only another way of expressing the eminently historical disposition of its soul. Our first-person idiom, our "ego habeo factum," our dynamic syntax, that is - faithfully renders the "way of doing things" that results from this disposition and, with its positive directional energy, dominates not only our picture of the World-as-History but our own history to boot.

The actual designation of the Faustian principle, which belongs to us and to us alone, is a matter of indifference.

For every man, whatever the Culture to which he belongs, the elements of the soul are the deities of an inner mythology. What "God" is for us, God as Breath of the World, the Universal Power, the ever-present doer and provider, that also - reflected from the space of world into the imaginary space of soul and necessarily felt as an actual presence - is "Will," ...viz., the power that moves all that is within its domain. Thought no sooner leaves Religion for Science that we get the double myth of concepts, in physics and psychology. The concepts "force," "mass," "will," "passion," rest not on objective experience but on a life-feeling.

[This appears to be a somewhat round-about way of saying that each Culture perceives "God" in their own image - and in the case of the Ultra-Orthodox, they perceive God as a nit-picking obsessive-compulsive anal-retentive power-monger - which is not a reflection of God, but rather a reflection of themselves. Their insistence that there is one way and one way alone to perform each and every commandment - their way, of course - combined with the equally ridiculous insistence that "real" Jews have "always" done things "their way" and that God does not tolerate diversity of interpretation and practice reflects not the truth of the Deity of Creation but rather shows the truth of the uber-narrow confines of their artificially constructed ghetto-born culture. God established 12 tribes that lived in 12 different areas and had, very likely, 12 different dialects and certainly had 12 different traditions of interpretation and practice. The goal of ultra-orthodoxy is to eradicate the traditions and interpretation of not just the other 11 tribes, but the many centuries of rich and varied traditions and interpretations of their not-so-monolithic past.]

The form language of dynamics, which puts the energetic contrast of capacity and intensity in place of the volitionless somatic contrast of material and form, is one common to all the mind-creations of those centuries.

The question is now: How far is the man of this Culture himself fulfilling what the soul-image that he has created requires of him?

[I think that it is rather obvious that ultra-orthodoxy has created such a complicated mess of "perfect" halacha that it is now basically impossible to be completely "torah-observant" to their standards.]

What will is in the soul-image, character is in the picture of life as we see it, the Western Life that is self-evident to Western Men. It is the fundamental postulate of all our ethical systems, differ otherwise as they may in their metaphysical or practical precepts, that man has character. Character, which forms itself in the stream of the world - the personality, the relation of living to doing - is a Faustian impression of Man. The conception of mankind as an active, fighting, progressing whole is...so necessary an idea for us that we find it hard indeed to realize that it is an exclusively Western hypothesis, living and valid only for a season.

The Faustian "character-drama" and the Apollinian "drama of noble gesture" have in fact nothing but name in common. Faustian tragedy is biographical, Classical anecdotal - that is, the one deals with the sense of a whole life and the other with the content of a single moment.

"Psychology" in fact is the proper designation for the Western way of fashioning men. The like of it is not to be found in any other Culture. ...Psychology is the form in which art handles man as incarnate will and not as σώμα [body]. Of deep necessity, we Faustians understand drama as a maximum of activity, and of deep necessity also, the Greek understood it as a maximum of passivity. The Mysteries were purely...ritual performances. Aristotle describes tragedy as the imitation of an occurrence. This imitation is identical with the "profanation" of the mysteries.

The Greek soul is the "here and now," the body, statid, "fixed point," being. To see this imperilled [sic] by the jealousy of the gods or by that blind chance that may crash upon any man's head without reason and without warning is the most fearful of all experiences. The very roots of Greek being are struck at by what for the challenging Faustian is the first stimulus to living activity. And then - to find oneself delivered, to see the sun come out again and the dark thunder clouds huddle themselves away on the remote horizon, to rejoice profoundly in the admired grand gesture, go see the tortured mythical soul breathe again - that is the [catharsis].

But it presupposes a kind of life-feeling that is entirely alien to us, the very word being hardly translatable into our languages and our sensations. It took all the aesthetic industry and assertiveness of the Baroque and Classicism, backed by the meekest submissiveness before ancient texts, to persuade us that this is the spiritual basis of our own tragedy as well. And no wonder - for the fact is that the effect of our tragedy is precisely the opposite. It does not deliver us from dead-weight pressure of events, but evokes active dynamic elements in us, stings us, stimulates us. It awakens the primary feelings of an energetic human being, the fierceness and the joy of tension, danger, violent deed, victory, crime, the triumph of overcoming and destroying.

[The apex of such stories and historical tales spring from the times of persecutions and pogroms against the Jewish people, culminating with the Holocaust, of course. One wonders what sort of form history and literature would have taken if the Holocaust had not occurred, but we shall never know. Both the Holocaust and our Cultural reaction to it were fashioned out of Western Culture. During the middle ages, Jews and Christians lived and thrived in the golden age of the Islamic empire - many of the most elevated and scholarly work comes from that period - but the violence and "will-to-power" of Western Culture has even made Islam what it is today. And now we see "will-to-power" rearing its ugly head in the imperialism and intolerance of ultra-orthodox Judaism as well, an eerie reflection of the hate and violence of Muslims, and a clear image of the imperialism of Western Culture in general.]

There are corresponding differences between the Appolinian and the Faustian outlook in the forms of dramatic presentation, which are the complement of the poetic idea. The technique of Western drama aims at...unbroken movement and strict exclusion of flat static moments.

And here our attention is drawn to a feature of Greek tragedy that any true tragedy of the Faustian Style must find intolerable, the continual presence of the Chorus. This Chorus as crowd (the ideal opposite to the lonely or inward man and the monologue of the West), this Chorus which is always there, the witness of every sililoquy, this Chorus by which, in the stage-life as in the real-life, fear before the boundless and the void is banished, is truly Apollinian.

In comparison with this kind of drama...even in the conversations, even in the group-scenes, we are sensible of the immense inner distance between the persons, each of whom at bottom is only talking with himself. Nothing can overcome this spiritual remoteness. The distinction holds for all Western poetry against all Classical.

[And is reflected in the broader thought-life of the Culture as well. Judaism used to recognize more clearly the fact of klal Yisrael, but lately in its quest for a mythical purity of race and halacha has focused nearly entirely on the thoughts and actions of individuals as opposed to the larger acts of the community. This results in some strange dichotomies. A person of the highest ethical and moral standard is considered a wanton sinner for failing to observe the stringencies of a particular rav or shul, but groups of "gedolim" and other true wanton sinners who lie, cheat, steal, defraud, abuse, neglect, molest and who use the grossest of mafia-style tactics to remain in power are considered "tzaddiqim" because they follow every minute stringency of halacha practiced by the community.]

The candle affirms and the sunlight denies space as the opposite of things. At night the universe of space triumphs over matter, at midday the surroundings assert themselves and space is repudiated. The Classical vase-painting and fresco has no time-of-day. No shadow indicates the state of the sun, no heaven shows the stars. There is neither morning nor evening, neither spring nor autumn, but pure timeless brightness. For equally obvious reasons, our oil painting developed in the opposite direction, towards an imaginary darkness, also independent of time-of-day, which forms the characteristic atmosphere of the Faustian soul-space. They are all penetrated through and through with a subdued darkness that is not derived from the motion of the heavenly bodies.

[Because our view of the world is not that "it was very good," as Scripture clearly states, but rather that it is fraught with peril and evil.]

Change of scene, undoubtedly regarded by the Greeks as a sort of profanation, is for us almost a religious necessity, a postulate of our world-feeling. We inwardly need a drama of perspectives and wide backgrounds, a stage that sakes off sensuous limitations and draws the whole world to itself.

[This is largely why even frum kids in this day and age are bored silly by ultra-orthodox religious practices. They have been infected by the Western dynamic and require far more "stimulation" than previous generations considered either necessary or desirable. And it is clear that just trying to keep kids away from movies, music, tv, and drama has not been an effective means of addressing the problem. The zeitgeist of Western Culture vibrates in the very air, and contaminates everything - virtually no corner of the world is free of it. Instead of trying to pretend this energy doesn't exist and isn't an issue, Judaism must meet the needs of modern children or see more kids, finding frum religion to be devoid of energy and spirit, turn to drugs, sex, and western music and entertainment for relief from the forced inactivity they endure all day. Certainly expecting today's kids to sit down, shut up, and be inert is not working and isn't going to. Their energy, both physical and intellectual, must be accepted as they are. Today's kids are not going to accept wishy-washy lukewarm answers and evasions of the hard questions.]

Every Culture has its own quite definite sort of esoteric or popular character that is immanent in all its doings, so far as these have symbolic importance. For us, popular and shallow are synonymous - in art as in science - but for Classical man it was not so.

Faustian art is not, and by very essence cannot be, "for all." If modern painting has ceased to appeal to any but a small (and ever decreasing) circle of connoisseurs, it is because it has turned away from the painting of things that the man in the street can understand. It has transferred the property of actuality from contents to space - the space through which alone, according to Kant, things "are."

Consider our sciences, too. Every one of them, without exception, has besides its elementary groundwork certain "higher" regions that are inaccessible to the layman - symbols, these also, of our will-to-infinity and directional energy. Indeed, we may take the craving for wide effect as a sufficient index by itself of the commencing and already perceptible decline of Western science. For us, the polarity of expert and layman has all the significance of a high symbol, and when the tension of this distance is beginning to slacken, there the Faustian life is fading out.

[It's certainly not in any immediate danger of slackening in Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, which has a stratified caste system that would make the ancient of India proud. Granted, such a separation of status of the Firstborns, replaced later by the Levites, was ordained by God. The Levites themselves, however, were later replaced by the Rabbinate, who gave such authority to themselves out of "necessity," as they claim, with a nod from Heaven by way of the Oral Law, which conveniently gives themselves the authority to authorize themselves. By way of their superior "learning" they supposedly rule in God's name, but in reality they primarily rule in their own names.]

The will to power - in contrast to the Moral of Behavior - finds its expression also in the astronomical picture. The telescope, a truly Faustian discovery, penetrates into space which is hidden from the naked eye, and thereby increases the universe that we "possess."

[The rabbinate calls this "gemara," whereby they possess secrets that ordinary laymen supposedly cannot comprehend.]

Every Culture possesses its own conception of home and fatherland, which is hard to comprehend, scarcely to be expressed in words, full of dark metaphysical relations, but nevertheless unmistakable in its tendency.

The sublimation of the idea of home, the passion of our Civilization for swift transit, the conquest of the air, the exploration of the polar regions and the climbing of almost impossible mountain peaks - we see, emerging everywhere, the prime symbol of the Faustian soul, Limitless Space. And those specially Western creations of the soul-myth called "Will," "Force," and "Deed" must be regarded as derivatives of this prime symbol.

[Judaism has a split personality in regards to homeland. First, liturgy makes it quite clear that the physical space of Eretz Israel is our homeland. However, in practice only slightly less Jews live in the Diaspora than live in Eretz Israel. The idea of homeland has been pushed aside, especially by Jews of European extraction, who no longer consider themselves middle-easterners or Hebrews and certainly not Israelis. This brings us to the second aspect, namely that many ultra-orthodox both in the Diaspora and in Israel itself actually reject the State of Israel, based on the premise that they have granted themselves a larger homeland - the whole world - which they will rule when the Messiah comes. Third is the concept of olam haba, wherein even the earthly kingdom of the Messiah is cast away for a whole new universe. It's hard to get much bigger than that, but I'm sure somebody will try before it's over. Not content with having possession of the Promised Land, they want all that and dominion over all other peoples, or at least all other Jews, as they think the prophets indicate will happen one day.]

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